What happens when Glacier National Park has no glaciers?
Climate change is having such a dramatic affect on Glacier National Park that while in 1850 there were 150 glaciers, two-thirds were gone by 1980, and one recent count identified only 26. Scientists previously estimated that the last of the glaciers would disappear by 2030, but more recent estimates predict 2020. Whatever the dates predicted, it is a fact that the glaciers are vanishing at a rapid rate.
Climate change affects more than sightseeing.
As the changing climate warms, there will be major changes in the park and in the territory which surround it. The mountain snow pack has declined, and the snow is being replaced with rain. Spring runoff comes earlier, so there is less water in the dry months, greater risk of floods, and changes in the plant and animal life. The tree line is moving to higher elevations with a longer growing season. Hot dry summers increase the risk and intensity of wildfires. Higher temperatures also have an impact on the wildlife in the park. Mountain goats lose their habitat as trees move into their area. Scientists are concerned about how the bull trout and other river species will survive with lower stream flows and warmer temperatures. The foraging areas of the grizzly and other bears are being lost.
Climate Friendly Parks Program
The park is participating in The Climate Friendly Parks Program with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to work on energy efficiency in the parks. While many of the actions will not be easily visible to visitors, some are directly related to the tourists. There is a shuttle system for visitors to cut down on traffic, bicycles available for staff use, and increased recycling programs. The recently refurbished antique red tour vehicles have been converted to propane. That cuts down on pollution from the historic red buses, and the use of these tour vehicles instead of private cars helps with both pollution and traffic. Many factors could increase the speed of glacier destruction, including controversial coal mining operations which conservationists are concerned will increase the environmental problems the park faces.
Visit Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park was established in 1910 and celebrates its centennial in 2010. This spectacular park has over a million acres of trails, lakes, waterfalls, and mountain roads with fabulous views from each turnout. The huge Rocky Mountains will always be there, but if you want your children to see the glaciers before they vanish, go soon.
Reference: Research into the specifics of these changes is available through the National Park Service website listing for Glacier National Park.